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NEAR TRUTHS: SECRETS AND LIES

IF YOU KNOW WHO BILL FREIMUTH IS, RAISE YOUR HAND: After The Weeknd’s inexplicable Grammy shutout—which saw him excluded from all 13 categories in which his work was entered—and the mess made of the Pop, R&B, Rap and Country album categories, much blame is being directed at a small group at the very highest level of the Secret Screening Committee structure—and Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth.

Academy boss Harvey Mason Jr. has offered a few bromides to defend the recent nominations. “For The Weeknd, in every year you only have a certain amount of people you can nominate for each category,” he said in one interview; he also noted that he’s not a voting member and that “I just observed [the process].” Mason insisted the nominating committee listens to everything and “we’re not considering popularity or chart position. We’re just listening for quality.”

But those justifications aren’t cutting much ice inside Grammy world. Meanwhile, there is growing resentment over the role of Freimuth in overseeing—and, in the words of several insiders, controlling—the awards process.

The 59-year-old exec is believed to wield excessive power in Grammyland, with the ability not only to appoint each nominating-committee head but also to select (in tandem with his hand-picked leaders) who sits on each committee. All this, of course, is done with utter impunity, taking place as it does under a veil of secrecy. It’s cowardly, and particularly galling given all that Academy PR about transparency, but it will continue unless the present outrage at Freimuth and his minions boils over into action.

We may be approaching that point, as current and former Academy players are at last coming forward to expose the corruption. Whatever your assessment of the landscape, it seems all roads lead to Freimuth; Harvey may be the head of the org, but they say its Bill’s fiefdom.

Freimuth has worked his way up at the Academy (extrapolating from disclosure forms, he now commands nearly $400k per year) and supervised numerous changes to awards and voting processes. According to the Academy itself, he leads a 17-member (secret) team in managing 22k+ entries and oversees 40+ secret committees while managing all proposals for change. But why would he want to effect real, substantive change? It’s evident that when we say, “The Academy does whatever the fuck it wants,” that’s largely synonymous with what Freimuth wants. Now, though, it appears some of his team members are breaking ranks and speaking out.

OMISSION CREEP: Considerable chatter in the wake of the Grammy snubfest has focused on Freimuth and the notion of “egregious omission,” whereby secret-committee members can add titles to the noms list if it’s felt they’ve been unfairly neglected. Certainly The Weeknd, if he was somehow missing from those lists, would’ve been a textbook example of egregious omission; by any yardstick, After Hours and “Blinding Lights” were essential to 2020. The same can be said for Harry Styles, Summer Walker, Lil Baby and Pop Smoke. Sadly, this procedure, at least in the last few years, has primarily been a means by which Bill and his secret-committee members have moved their pet projects (and those of their friends and collaborators) onto the list.

CHICKENSHIT: Meanwhile, another mini-cabal—consisting of Nashville chapter members—is being accused of corrupt dealings of the worst kind. Despite vociferous, repeated denials from the members of this group, virtually everyone in Music City is pointing fingers at three players and the two acts they represent, whom they say have hijacked the country nominations for a second straight year and totally shut out Luke Combs, Kane Brown, Morgan Wallen and Gabby Barrett.

One current media executive, one artist manager and one part-time manager/consultant—along with two artists they rep—have been warned in the past about their abuse and collusion by high-ranking Grammy officials, who urged them in the strongest possible terms to knock the shit off. Yet they continue to run roughshod over the process. Is momentum gathering among Nashvillians to demand the purported ringleaders step down from the chapter? One of these obstructionists responded to multiple managers whose clients were stiffed with, “I wasn’t in the room.”

Speaking of the Nashville chapter, why is everyone talking about the well-liked and well-respected Tracy Gershon, who is said to be a prominent player in the chapter?

 

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